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December 23rd 2020

Accidents & Illness Abroad

Lawyers warn ‘no deal’ Brexit could leave holidaymakers ‘in legal no man’s land’ without vital protection when travelling to Europe

Anthony Hey

Anthony Hey

Litigation Executive, Travel

Lawyers warn ‘no deal’ Brexit could leave holidaymakers ‘in legal no man’s land’ without vital protection when travelling to Europe

UK holidaymakers could be left in ‘a legal no man’s land’ and without any support should they suffer injury in Europe following a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

UK holidaymakers could be left in ‘a legal no man’s land’ and without any support should they suffer injury in Europe following a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

That is the warning from a specialist travel litigation expert at Hudgell Solicitors, who says UK residents face being left ‘terribly exposed’ and potentially unable to instruct UK based lawyers to act in their interests.

Anthony Hey, a member of our dedicated travel litigation department, says the team has been ‘exceptionally busy’ in recent weeks as lawyers rush to ensure legal proceedings have started in their current cases ahead of the Brexit deadline of December 31.

By launching legal action before the end of the year, they will fall under current EU legislation in which the cases of English and Welsh citizens who suffer injury abroad due to the negligence of others can be handled by English and Welsh lawyers, and through the Courts of England and Wales.

However, Mr Hey says that may all change in a matter of days, causing ‘a world of confusion’ with regard to such claims and potentially leaving people without any legal representation to seek damages for injuries suffered, to pay for treatment and to recover financial losses.

“It’s a worrying time because, as travel litigation specialists, we support many people who sadly suffer serious injuries through accidents when abroad, and particularly in Europe, and they need significant legal support to secure the damages they need and deserve,” he said.

“We know how important it is for them to have their cases heard in England and to be represented by English lawyers, and at present the law states that if you live in England and you are injured in an EU member country, the case can be heard in England. It allows many people to pursue action at no initial cost to them.

“If we leave with a “no deal” Brexit at the end of the month however, that is all thrown into doubt and there is currently no certainty at all as to where we will go from there. It will be a world of confusion and frustration.

“UK residents injured in Europe could find themselves in no man’s land when it comes to finding legal support, and if you’ve been seriously injured, left in need of rehabilitation and out of pocket, that would be an awful situation to be in.”

‘Prime Minister must agree deal which protects holidaymakers’ access to UK based legal support’

In April the UK Government submitted an application to join the Lugano Convention 2007, a regime largely equivalent to EU rules between the 27 EU member states. Under this Convention it is possible for injured people, who sustain injuries in another EU Member State, to bring their legal claim in their own country.

It is a legal route Mr Hey says he and his colleagues use currently when handling injury cases relating to incidents happening in countries such as Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, which are all signatories to the Lugano Convention.

However, he says UK lawyers’ ability to use that Convention as a non-member state itself is far from guaranteed in 2021 and beyond.

“The Lugano Convention is something we use in a handful of cases presently as it allows us to piggy back on EU law in those countries which are part of the Convention but not EU members. It allows UK courts to respect the EU case-law of the ECJ – without being bound by it,” he said.

“However, we do that of course from our positon of presently being part of the EU. Once we are out – and especially if we leave on bad terms, we may find the current EU members won’t agree to us signing up to the Lugano Convention.

“Then we will be in position where a large number of people won’t be able to seek redress in their own country and may need to instruct foreign lawyers, go through a foreign Court system and the process will be very protracted, highly inconvenient practically speaking, and very costly.

“Once travel restrictions and the risk of infection from Covid-19 reduces, which is hopefully not too far away, UK holidaymakers will be desperate to get back on the beaches in many of Europe’s hotspots. However, they could be left terribly exposed if anything goes wrong and they suffer injury.

“We have been exceptionally busy in recent weeks as all lawyers are filing claims ahead of the December 31 deadline knowing how difficult it will be in a few weeks.

“We need Boris Johnson to agree a deal under which UK citizens continue to have the very best legal support from UK-based specialists should they be injured abroad.”

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